■ EnergyOfficial: oil prices will drop
Officials from the nation's top economic planning agency said yesterday that there is no cause for concern about the surge in oil prices in recent days. Hu Sheng-cheng (胡勝正), chairman of the Cabinet-level Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD), said that the rise in oil prices will only be short term and that the price of oil is very likely to drop to US$35 a barrel this year. He added that this will help stabilize the inflation rate at below 2 percent for this year. Foreign wire services reported that in early trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, light sweet crude for delivery in March jumped by US$1.39 to US$48.7 per barrel. CEPD Vice Chairman Yeh Ming-feng (葉明峰) said that rising oil prices won't last long, predicting that prices will drop after March when the weather begins to warm up. World oil prices have slid by some 20 percent from the peak in October last year. Analysts at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, however, contended that oil prices are very likely to rise above US$50 a barrel in the near term, citing international concerns that oil production might be disrupted by terrorist attacks as the Jan. 31 elections in Iraq approach.
Music group Austria-bound
A music-oriented goodwill corps formed to engage in cultural exchanges in the international community will take part in an international chorus and symphony festival in Salzburg, Austria in July at the invitation of the Austrian tourist bureau, according to a Taiwan musician who will head the group on the trip. Dr. Lin Jong-teh, who has dedicated himself to teaching music to Taiwan's youth, said Saturday that the goodwill corps will be mainly comprised of members of a Kaohsiung youth chorus society, which is scheduled to stage a joint performance with the Salzburg Symphony Orchestra during the July festival. Chuang Ya-fei, a Taiwan-born pianist living in the US who has won first prize at the Cologne International Piano Competition, will give a solo performance at the festival, according to Lin. Lin said he feels their upcoming participation in the major musical event in Salzburg, the birth place of musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), will be a good chance for the corps to conduct exchanges with musical groups from around the world.
Web violations new focus
The Intellectual Property Office under the Ministry of Economic Affairs will shift its focus from cracking down on pirated compact discs to intellectual property right infringements on the Internet, according to an official from the office. Encouraged by the Office of the US Trade Representative's decision to remove Taiwan from its "Special 301 priority watch list," the official said his office is planning to recruit a team of computer experts to crack down on Web sites that illegally provide copyrighted music and software for downloading. The Office of the US Trade Representative removed Taiwan from its watch list on Jan. 18 in recognition of the nation's efforts and progress in intellectual property rights protection. US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said at that time that Taiwan's efforts in cracking down on commercial piracy and counterfeit products over the past year have been commendable. Zoellick noted, however, that the country can do a better job in protection of patent and innovation rights on pharmaceutical products and agrochemical products, where the US thinks that threats still exist.